SEATTLE (AP) — For the second straight night, the Texas Rangers were well aware there was an opportunity to make their lead in the AL West a bit more comfortable, and they failed.
This time it had nothing to do with their pitching. If anything, the performance from Texas starter Matt Harrison deserved better.
Michael Saunders hit a solo home run in the second inning, one-time Texas prospect Blake Beavan threw seven shutout innings against his former club, and the Seattle Mariners kept the Rangers from extending their lead in the AL West with a 1-0 win on Saturday night.
Seattle took the first two games in the weekend series — handing the Rangers consecutive defeats for the first time in more than a month — and finally solved Harrison’s mastery of the Mariners.
“It happens. We’re not going to win every series. You do the best you can to do that and win every game,” Harrison said. “But Beavan did a great job tonight of keeping it 1-0 and it’s going to happen.
“I guess if we’re going to lose, it’s good the A’s lose too.”
Before Saturday night’s game, the Rangers were crowded around the clubhouse televisions watching intently as the New York Yankees helped them out in the division race by rallying to beat Oakland 10-9 in 14 innings.
But the Rangers struggled with their situational execution against Beavan and were shut out for just the fifth time this season. Their lead in the division over the A’s remained at four games.
Texas has now lost two straight for the first time since dropping three consecutive to the Yankees in the middle of August. After the final game of its road trip on Sunday against Seattle, the Rangers will head home for seven critical games — four versus Oakland and three against the Angels — that could finally cinch the division race.
“We’re usually pretty good about getting two-out hits, tonight it didn’t happen,” Texas DH Michael Young said. “Something we feel is a big strength of our offensive game is being versatile enough to do little things when called upon to do it. Tonight we didn’t do it.”
Harrison (17-10) had won nine straight times against Seattle, the second-longest streak in Rangers’ history against one team, but was not able to extend the roll despite holding the Mariners to just the homer by Saunders.
Harrison was trying to become the first pitcher to win five decisions against Seattle in a season and tie Kenny Rogers’ franchise record for most wins by a left-hander. Outside of the homer to Saunders — his 17th of the season — Harrison did enough to earn the victory. Harrison allowed just seven hits, struck out six but tied a season-high with four walks.
He nearly didn’t make it out of the fourth inning after giving up consecutive singles to Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero and a walk to Justin Smoak, loading the bases with no outs. With Roy Oswalt warming up in the bullpen, Harrison got a broken-bat lineout from Saunders, struck Alex Liddi on a high fastball and saw Luis Jimenez ground out to first to end the threat.
“I got better as the game went on. My command got better,” Harrison said. “Saunders’ pitch, I didn’t make a mistake. It’s where I wanted it to be but he got extension on it and got it. That wasn’t the only mistake I made but the only one that got me.”
Nelson Cruz nearly tied it in the fourth, but was thrown out at home to end the inning trying to score from first on David Murphy’s double. Seattle’s relay from Casper Wells to Kyle Seager to catcher Jesus Montero was perfectly executed and got Cruz by 10 feet.
The Rangers’ other scoring chance came in the eighth and knocked out Beavan. Mitch Moreland led off with a double and Beavan walked Craig Gentry. Seattle went to reliever Josh Kinney, who struck out Ian Kinsler after he was twice unable to get a bunt down. Elvis Andrus flew out to center for the second out Michael Young struck out to end the threat.
“When you face good pitching like the Mariners got, it just comes down to execution,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “You execute and you got a chance. We just didn’t execute tonight.”
Beavan, who came to Seattle in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Texas during the 2010 season, allowed a runner to reach base in the first six innings, but escaped every scoring threat from the Rangers. He got key double plays in the third and fifth innings and became the fifth Seattle pitcher this season to throw at least seven shutout innings in a game.
“It means a lot. I’m from there, I got traded by them so it means a lot to beat those guys,” Beavan said.
NOTES: Seattle is now 6-3 in 1-0 games this season. … Young extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the sixth. … Fergie Jenkins is the only Texas pitcher to defeat an opponent five times in one season, doing it to Minnesota and Oakland in 1974.